On Monday 20 April 2020, the Government announced that New Zealand will move out of Alert Level 4 lockdown at 11.59pm on Monday 27 April and into Alert Level 3 for 2 weeks. The Government’s decision enables many businesses to “get going again” and for many people this means going back to work. Yet at the same time, Level 3 still poses various restrictions on business activity, and with limited information available to explain these restrictions, it is no wonder that Level 3 is causing quite a bit of confusion.
Luckily, more and more information is coming to light but in simple terms, the most important factor to consider is whether your business can operate “safely” to control any risk of COVID-19 in the workplace. For your business to safely reopen, additional measures will need to be put into place to safeguard the well-being of staff. Examples of these additional measures can be:
- Prevention of customers/clients from coming into your workplace or onto a work site. Face to face contact must be avoided (save for certain industries such as supermarkets, dairies, petrol stations, pharmacies or permitted health services which have operated under Alert Level 4). To prevent non-staff from entering the workplace/work site, an employer must:
- ensure that all the doors on the premises are locked (if possible) to avoid clients/customers from entering the workplace;
- place signage around the outside of the work premises to signal to any clients/customers that they cannot enter the workplace for the duration of Level 3; and
- Think about sending a “Safety Memo” to all staff in advance of their return to work letting them know that clients/customers will not be allowed on the premises and instruct them to adhere to your additional safety measures (many businesses are already preparing their ‘Safety Plan’ for circulation to staff in anticipation of return to work under Level 3).
- If your business provides goods or products, you will need to ensure that your business can operate in a contactless manner where your customers can either pay online or over the phone for their products, and the delivery or pick-up of those products can be contactless. Again, no face to face contact so this means making sure you have enough staff to assist with any deliveries or drop-off’s for larger items as you cannot ask for external help at the recipient’s location.
- Ensure there is physical distancing between staff within the workplace of at least 1 metre between one another (this has been reduced from 2 metres due to the workplace being deemed a controlled environment). A simple way of distancing staff and limiting their interaction is by having staff work according to a roster; split shifts; staggered start/finish times; separating workstations; creating small working groups; prepare a contact sheet for the sake of contact tracing etc.
- Instruct staff to follow strict hygiene measures. For example, make sure that staff are aware (either by way of a Staff Memo or putting signage/posters around the workplace) to practice basic hygiene measures such as washing their hands regularly with soap, sneezing and coughing into their elbow and not to come into work if they are sick or immunocompromised. Instruct staff to notify their manager immediately they feel unwell; test positive for Covid-19, or if someone within their “bubble” has tested positive for Covid-19.
- Demonstrate thorough cleaning measures in the workplace. It is recommended that an employer has the workplace cleaned and disinfected before staff return to work and that there is ongoing cleaning of surfaces and office equipment / furniture (i.e. door handles) on a regular basis.
If your business will have difficulty adhering to these additional safety measures then the best advice is to continue with remote working (if at all possible) and have staff remain at home. Only reopen your business if you are confident that these additional safety measures can be met and adhered to by staff. If there is any uncertainty, then do not take the risk and remain closed (or operate remotely if this is a possibility).
If you have any queries, please feel free to contact us.